Painted Herringbone Pattern

By Kate Riley November 8, 2012

I’m a huge fan of the herringbone pattern that originated with the classic weave especially on floors, walls, and in fabric patterns too (did you know it’s named after the skeleton of a herring?)  I love the modern spin with a vertical stripe running through the short diagonal stripes and colorized in two or more offset shades. 

The other day I was in one of my creative moods so I painted a modern herringbone pattern with some fabric paint and stencil tape on a flour sack then stitched it up into a fall accent pillow. 

diy painted herringbone pattern


I used Martha’s fabric medium and acrylic craft paints since I wanted a combination of rich caramel and taupe gray.  I also grabbed a large flour sack towel at my local mom and pop hardware store – they carry stacks of them in their kitchen department for $3.  Martha’s stencil tape was what I used to create the pattern, the product is designed for holding stencils in place but also perfect for creating stripes!

fabric paint and stencil tape


It’s a pretty basic pattern that doesn’t have to be exact, I eyeballed it as I went along but if you’re uncertain, you can use a small measuring tape.  To make the center stripes, I cut the tape in half and ran it down the length of the flour sack cotton fabric to form three dividing lines.

cut tape in half for thin stripe


center stripes


I didn’t measure any angles, I just started by placing one strip across the middle at an angle connecting the thin middle stripes and then mimicking that all the way down the fabric.  Creating the entire pattern took about 15 minutes, it goes fast once you get started!

create pattern with tape

Don’t worry about minor creases in your fabric, you can iron the back of it later after the paint dries, but if you prefer to work with wrinkle free fabric then use the iron first.

I mixed up the ratio of paint and fabric medium and started sponging the colors one at a time in an offset pattern.  Do two coats for full coverage.

paint with sponge


Allow it to dry for a minimum of 6-8 hours and then peel up the tape!  The pattern would make a beautiful table runner for Thanksgiving!

painted herrinbone runner centsational girl


Or a pretty tea towel for your kitchen.

herringbone kitchen tea towel


I was curious about how steadfast the paint would be if I washed it and good news, a wash on a delicate cycle with detergent didn’t change the pattern. 

delicate wash


It dried on my laundry rack and a quick press with the iron brought it back to life but be sure to iron on the non-painted side. 

drying in laundry room


painted herrinbone pillow on tufted sofa cg


Are you a fan of the herringbone pattern too?  It’s easy to recreate with craft paint, fabric medium, tape, and some cotton fabric!




  1. Hi Kate! Thank you so much for all your ideas – you have me believing I can DIY anything lol!

    I recently painted a shower curtain and I’m disappointed that it looks streaky even though I did two coats. I hoped it would look like the fabric was already that way (not be obvious that I painted it). Do you know if that’s because I just used latex paint and didn’t use the fabric medium? I wanted to do our living room curtains next but don’t want to mess them up. Any advice you have would be awesome, thank you!!!!

  2. Yes, I recommend using the fabric medium – it softens the paint but I can’t explain your streaks, sounds terrible! There are other brands besides Martha’s fabric medium but it’s designed to make many paints work with fabric.

  3. Thank you for the quick reply! I will definately look for the fabric medium… and maybe a different type of fabric will help my streak situation. Thanks again! Have a great night :)

  4. Hi Kate! Where did you get that sponge? Is it designed for stenciling projects? Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas.

  5. Hi Kate,

    Currently I am in the process of reupholstering my couches with dropcloths. I have been planning on reupholstering these hideous things for the last 10 years. I even bought a pattern years ago. So far (last month) I pulled out hundreds of staples and practiced sewing a cushion for a side chair with caning (thrift store find 6+ years ago). I would like to paint something on my dropcloth either for the chair, pillows, or curtains and will refer back to this post at some point. Your blog was my first and has inspired me to be less fearful with my thrift store finds. I redid these chairs that I found for $5 each. Thanks for the inspiration! -Elisha

  6. Kate, you are so creative! Your blog is the first one I check every morning with a hot cup of coffee. The pillow is simply beautiful!

  7. Hi Kate,
    Does the paint bleed through the other side of the fabric? Love the twist on a classic pattern. Thanks for sharing another great idea.

  8. How perfect. I have been thinking about painting fabric for some time now because I haven’t found the blue I want to use in the livingroom for pillows. This will be a great weekend project. Thank you for you wonderful posts.

  9. Beautiful!! How do you come up with such creative ideas? Your blog is an inspiration to me. Thanks for sharing.

  10. What a clever idea! I’ve never thought to paint fabric, but I think I’ll be adding this to my to-do list!

  11. I love geometrics and herringbone is my favorite. I once lived in an apartment in Geneva that had the most gorgeous, time worn, centuries old herringbone wood floors. I wanted to bring them home with me. I’m going to add this idea to my list (yikes, it’s horribly long – I blame pinterest!).

  12. Incredible, Kate! I love this. Last year we updated our dining room with a gorgeous 72-inch (fixed) round carved pedestal table in a dark walnut finish. So I have put the idea of table runners aside. For centerpieces, I’ve gotten by with placing a large square napkin or fabric in the center but so far am not inspired or wowed. Would you do the traditional oblong table runner across the center or even place two in an X pattern? I’ve done a Pinterest search and came up with no tabkescape ideas for a large round table.

    • Hi Christine! Yes, two criss cross runners would work in the form of an ‘X’ – I also love a layered look on a round pedestal if you’re looking for a fabric covering, think a neutral base such as linen or plain white and then a square patterned cloth on top in a fun plaid, stripe, botanical, or geometric! Then add your place settings for a gorg table!

  13. Love this!!! I believe I spy the Kichler mirror in the background! Is your mirror metal or another type of material? I expected it to be metal, but it wasn’t. Netherless, it’s still nice :)

  14. Kate! This is beautiful. Such a great idea. I will definitely keep this in the back of my mind for my next creative project!

  15. These are positively STUNNING! I will definitely have to try these out. I love the grey but I have a dark brown couch cover (covering up a HIDEOUS green and red plaid. Not even cute for Christmas.)… I wonder if the grey and brown would still look okay or if I should try it with a brown and a lighter brown… or if that would be too much brown. Hmm!

  16. What an awesome DIY project! You definitely have more patience than I. :) BTW – I love your Mom’s dining room tablescape! The round balls that look like pinecones are awesome! I’ve already bleached a batch of pinecones for the holidays, but where did you find those awesome round balls? Thanks for your many wonderful inspirational projects!

    • Hi Stacey, those round wood balls that look like shaved pinecones are from HomeGoods!

  17. Looks great! Reminds me of my chair that I did with paint and fabric medium – yours is a new take on the process! I love the pattern you chose.

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